A ban on cut-price deals and a clampdown on aggressive sales techniques for cosmetic surgery are among ideas submitted to a review of the industry ordered in the wake of the PIP breast implant scandal.
A two-stage consent process for potential patients to allow them time to reflect before making a final decision were among suggestions given to the review into the plastic surgery industry being led by Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director.
The ideas from the public, the industry and patient groups to safeguard people thinking of having cosmetic procedures are included in an interim report, released today, that will feed into the review, due to be published in March.
The report was welcomed by the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (BAAPS) - which also said its proposals would need some tightening up if they were to be implemented.
Science writer Vivienne Parry, who is one of the Keogh review committee members, said: "Aggressive marketing techniques are often used to maximise profit. This may be the right approach for selling double glazing but not for people having or considering whether to have surgery.
"Everyone who decides to have cosmetic surgery should have time to think about the risks. Time limited deals and offers on voucher websites pressure people to make snap decisions."
The review was requested by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley last January after concerns about cosmetic surgery were raised following the public outcry over faulty PIP breast implants and could lead to tighter regulation of the industry.
Around 40,000 women in the UK received implants manufactured by the now-closed French company Poly Implant Prostheses (PIP), mostly in private UK clinics.
The implants were filled with non-medical grade silicone intended for use in mattresses.
The expert panel includes PIP campaigner Catherine Kydd, former medical director of Bupa Andrew Vallance-Owen, GP and television medical commentator Dr Rosemary Leonard and editor of Marie Claire magazine Trish Halpin.
Responses to a call for evidence published in the report showed public backing for:
- Banning free consultations for cosmetic surgery to avoid people feeling obliged to have procedures.
- Ensuring consultations take place with a medical professional rather than a sales adviser.
- Tighter restrictions on advertising, including a ban on two-for-one deals, those with a time limit or offering cosmetic surgery as competition prizes.
- A two-stage written consent for surgery, allowing patients to take time over their decision.
- Better information for patients about the risks associated with surgery, plus photographs of expected bruising and scarring.
The report released today only shows what different groups proposed. The Department of Health said the review is not bound to adopt them and can come up with its own recommendations in March.
Dr Leonard added: "It is wrong that the first consultation is with a sales person rather than a medical professional.
"Surgery - indeed any cosmetic intervention - is a serious step, and a patient must be told about the immediate side effects after surgery as well as any potential long term effects on their health."
BAAPS president Rajiv Grover said the report showed that the public backed what it had been saying for years regarding the potential for vulnerable people to be taken advantage of.
"We have made the comparison between cosmetic surgery being sold as a commodity, much as a washing machine or off-the-shelf beauty products, many times before," he said.
"Medical procedures simply cannot continue to be promoted in this manner and although it is tragic that it has taken a crisis of the magnitude of PIP to make the world sit up and take notice, it seems we're finally making headway towards a safer environment for patients.
"It's time to scrub up and take action to restore confidence in our sector."
But he warned at least one dangerous loophole remains, adding: "In particular, the call for a 'medical professional' rather than 'a salesperson' to hold the initial consultation with prospective patients is a dangerously broad and inadequate definition," he said.
"Unequivocally, the only person holding a consultation with a patient should be the surgeon who will be performing the procedure."